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New Horizons

French Creek Blessings

Douglas A. Watson

Betty and I are one of the many couples that met at French Creek Bible Conference (FCBC), held at French Creek State Park in Pennsylvania. Like most of them, we probably would not have met if we had not been at French Creek. Actually, our meeting, dating, marrying, and establishing a Christian home was part of the purpose of the conferences. Pastors Bob Atwell, Glenn Coie, and Lou Grotenhuis began the conferences in order that the young people in their small churches would have a better opportunity to meet Christian peers. I remember that for several years, Pastor John Clelland taught a class on love, courtship, and marriage. It is no accident that a significant number of those on the current Board of Trustees of FCBC met their spouse during a conference.

My pastor had to approve my attendance for my first year at French Creek because I was a year too young. To this day, I remember the kindness shown to us younger delegates by those who were older. Betty also began at an early age, as she went with her mother, who was serving as a counselor. Since her home was in Queens, New York, she was thrilled with the trees and open spaces that were part of French Creek State Park, where the conferences were held.

I have often described French Creek facilities as "early rustic." This continues to be true, but was more accurate fifty years ago. When I arrived at French Creek, I was given a tick—not a bloodsucking insect, but mattress ticking—which I then filled with straw, so that I could sleep on it for the next week. This "mattress" went on a metal-framed cot in a cabin that I shared with three others. The cabin was, and still is, a wood-frame structure with screen windows. I soon learned that there was no hot water in the washhouse. No one ever returned to French Creek because of the luxurious facilities. However, for many years we did enjoy our afternoon swim in Hopewell Lake—until the geese polluted it.

In those early days, we had three classes in the morning and a worship service every evening. Indeed, FCBC is a Bible conference, and we were delegates and not campers. I especially remember the classes in which Francis Mahaffy used his missionary experiences in Eritrea to illustrate his Bible instruction. These classes, along with the Christian example of the staff and especially the counselors, created a wonderful environment that caused so many of us to return year after year. When we were too old to be delegates, we became kitchen staff or counselors, and later conference directors or deans.

In my years as a leader of the conferences, I have seen young people come reluctantly to a conference and then cry because they had to go home. Many of us have dear friends throughout the nation and the world whom we first met at French Creek. My friendship with many ministers and elders in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church began there.

Betty and I have been married for over forty-six years, and we have continued to be involved with the FCBC ministry and have seen our children be delegates, counselors, and even a conference director. We are thankful for those who began the conferences and those who have continued it for these many years. We know that many join with us in praising God for the many blessings that he has granted to his church through the French Creek Bible Conferences.

The author, an OP minister, is staff accountant for the Committee on Coordination. Reprinted from New Horizons, Oct. 2010.

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